A Delta Connection Embraer ERJ-175LR aircraft lands as a United Express Embraer ERJ-175LR aircraft waits for take off at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, California, Jan. 10, 2018.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
Eleven U.S. airlines issued $ 12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic shook the travel industry, the head of industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) said on Friday. in a letter to lawmakers.
Airlines have faced backlash from passengers and some lawmakers over their handling of exchanges of canceled flights during the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or by the traveler.
Nicholas Calio, managing director of A4A, acknowledged that many carriers encourage customers to accept vouchers for future travel instead of cash, but said it was not done with “bad intention” but rather to avoid possible declarations of bankruptcy.
“The facts clearly show that US airlines have maintained an unwavering commitment to the traveling public during the pandemic and have consistently issued refunds in accordance with all federal laws and regulations,” Calio wrote in a letter to the two senators.
Calio said cash refunds, which accounted for about 20% of airline revenues last year, are on top of billions of dollars in travel credits that are now being used “at a rapid pace” to book new flights. .
Coupon redemptions currently represent 10% to 15% of carriers’ monthly ticket sales and are expected to increase in the coming months as the pandemic ends and markets and sites reopen, Calio said in the letter, viewed by Reuters.
A predicted increase in summer leisure travel as more Americans get their coronavirus shots should help airlines return to positive cash flow after record losses last year.